Sir, - An open letter to Binyamin Netanyahu:
As the new leader of Likud you now have to position yourself towards the center on foreign policy without alienating your right-wing base. I would suggest the following approach.
Be true to your convictions. Declare boldly and truthfully that the Jewish people have the best claim to all the land on religious, legal moral and historical grounds. However, admit that the Arabs have a legitimate claim, hence it will be necessary to share. Point out that when you hear a Palestinian leader declare in public, in Arabic, that the Arabs have the best claim to the land, but that the Jews have a legitimate claim too, then you will have a partner for peace.
Until such time negotiation is futile, and we can only attempt to manage the conflict, including no abandonment of existing assets and the severe and prompt punishment of violence or attempted violence. Appeasement has failed, it is time for something new.
STEPHEN S. COHEN
Out of touch
Sir, - According to aides to Prime Minister Sharon the Likud is extremist ("Netanyahu wins Likud leadership race," December 20)? I always thought "extremist" meant far out of the mainstream. It seems that in Israel today, a person can be as radically left-wing as he wants and still be considered reasonable, but anything right of center is cause for alarm and makes one a target for criticism or worse. Maybe politicians and the media should reevaluate their perception of reality. It just may be that they are out of touch.
ADAM ELIYAHU BERKOWITZ
Sir, - Why doesn't the Knesset show its care and concern for Israelis and not increase the election budget ("Knesset okays bigger elections budget," December 20)? I suggest it reallocate this NIS 19.4 million increase to something truly important like fighting poverty or improving education.
Stengel for PM
Sir, - In noting the need for a scorecard to follow the whereabouts of Israeli politicians, Larry Lefkowitz asks "Who's on third?" (Letters, December 19). In the classic Abbot and Costello routine, the name of the third baseman is "I don't know." In the case of Israel's peripatetic - or is it pathetic - politicians, the name of the team's shortstop is more relevant: "I don't give a damn." As Casey Stengel used to say when interlocutors doubted a fact, you could look it up.
It occurs to me that Casey would be a better leader than any of the motley group we regrettably have right now.
Sir, - With regard to Freda Keet's challenge to create a cleaner Israel ("Environment for the birds?" Letters, December 14), we at Jewish National Fund couldn't agree more.
For the past five years, and at the initiation of Jewish National Fund of Australia together with the Environment Ministry, Israel has participated in Clean up The World Day. Held on September 20, more than 70,000 Israeli students participated this year and spent the day cleaning up the country.
By promoting environmental cleanup JNF hopes to increase awareness that the forests are a national treasure to be cherished, and to reach adults through students.
JNF hopes to make a Clean up Israel Day product kit for use in summer camps and to incorporate instructional activism into the framework of the Neighborhood Rehab Program to encourage people to take the trash with them and recycle it when they leave park grounds.
RONALD S. LAUDER
Jewish National Fund
Sir, - Daniel Orenstein opposes our recent resolution urging divestment from Israel ("A black day for the American Green Party," December 15). Perhaps he does not know what the Green Party stands for.
Our guiding principles are ecological wisdom, social justice, non-violence and participatory democracy.
We share Mr. Orenstein's view that "many... environmental problems are rooted in sociopolitical problems," the most severe being war. We opposed the terrorist bombings in London and Egypt, the war in Iraq and called for an end to the genocide in Darfur.
Our platform unequivocally challenges his view that we are disseminating hatred against Israel. We reaffirm the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis. Yet, the fact is that self-determination for Israel increasingly comes at the expense of the Palestinians.
Self-determination and peace for both sides - and protecting the land they share - can only happen by pressuring Israel through divestment.
Green Party of the US
Abbas's leading role
Sir, - Daoud Kuttab's "Abbas - lead, or be pushed aside" (December 19) is misleadingly titled. Instead of issuing a genuine call to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to forcefully lead the Palestinians, Kuttab finds ways to blame Israel for Abbas's misfortunes.
There is one thing - and only one thing - that Abbas must do in order to lead: Fight terrorism. Until Abbas musters the courage to disarm the terrorists - regardless of their group affiliations - the terrorists will continue to control the Palestinian street and Israel will rightfully refuse to deal with him.
The first phase of the road map is the dismantling of Palestinian terror groups. If Abbas cannot take the heat of doing that, he ought to get out of the kitchen.
CARL M. SHERER
Sir, - The suggestion that haredim serve the country by being trained for emergency response ("Haredi service," Letters, December 20) would create redundancy. Zaka (Disaster Victims Identification), Magen David Adom and other government agencies are already responsible for such situations.
I would offer a different solution which would help bring haredim into the mainstream of society. Perhaps national service could consist of road repair and improving infrastructure, along with learning the trades related to these tasks. Such a plan would provide participants with the skills to work, in addition to their learning.
Many of our cities and towns are in dire need of upgrade to aging infrastructure. Many schools need repair as well. Haredim would gain along with the rest of society in cleaner, safer cities.
Sir, - Abe Krieger's letter on the state of Conservative Judaism in the US ("Tug of war," December 16) concludes that Modern Orthodoxy provides the certainty needed in the face of Conservative Judaism's ambiguous future.
The Modern Orthodox philosophy of Torah and derech eretz actually presents difficult questions. The role of women is also a matter of much debate in Modern Orthodox circles. Throughout Jewish history, halacha has been adapted to changing circumstances, with notable examples being Hillel who abrogated the law concerning the release of debts at the seventh year (shmita) to help those in financial distress, as well as R. Gershom who introduced monogamy as the Jewish ideal in the 11th century. While Krieger laments over an egalitarian service, aren't equal rights for men and women a positive development in the practice of derech eretz?
Sir, - Eric Yoffie asserts that "the overwhelming majority of North American Jews have chosen not to embrace the approach to Jewish tradition that [Rabbi Avi] Shafran [an Orthodox Jew] has to offer" ("Stop the bashing," December 15). One must question how many of this majority have exercised their option to make an informed choice, by exposing themselves to Orthodox thought, teachers and communities, or was the choice made by default?
Yoffie might be surprised by the far-ranging impact of Agudath Israel's recent convention. Several major sessions were open to the public and attendance was likely in the thousands. Even more attended live video-conferencing of the opening session. And audio tapes of workshops and periodicals discussing the convention are also quite popular.
The numbers may not have topped 5,000 but it would be interesting to compare proportional participation in the Reform and Orthodox events.
Oak Park, Michigan
Sir, - Thanks to Elliot Jager for a great column ("Normal and abnormal hatred," December 19). I was shocked and dismayed by the survey in Israel that found a majority of the Left hates settlers more than just about anything. My first thought was such feelings put the Left in the same league as the terrorists who also hate settlers more than, say, Israeli taxi drivers.
Up, with aliya
Sir, - "Why I am making aliya," (December 20) is evidence of a historic shift from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel. The Land was long associated with relative danger and the Diaspora with relative safety. During Temple times it was easier to stay in Babylonia than to return with Ezra. A member of the Tosefot Talmudic commentators noted that the way to the Land is dangerous and it is difficult to keep the Land-related mitzvot, thus it is better to remain in the Diaspora.
In our day, from the safety of Britain or the US, Israel has looked dangerous with its wars, terror attacks and difficult economic situation.
Now, the tide has turned. The Diaspora is where there is danger, even in Britain as testified to by the author of the article. Israel represents safety from anti-Semitism, attacks on synagogues and cemeteries. One hopes that as Jew-hatred drove Jews from the Land, it will now drive Jews back from the Diaspora.
Sir, - Calev Bender lists all the right reasons for his decision to make aliya, with seemingly no political twist or religious overtones. I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said, and kept nodding my head, saying, "Yep, that's why I came," some 35 years ago.
Let's have more such.